Vestergaard wants moreArticle
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The succesful Viborg HK coach looks back to the final and into the future.

Vestergaard wants more

Winning the Women’s Champions League for the second time in succession was a huge triumph for 35 year old Viborg coach Jakob Vestergaard who has only been head coach in the Danish club for two years. He wants more, though, and is already saying that it "would be great fun" to take the Champions League trophy for the third year in succession next season. talked to the successful coach after his team had made their 2009/10 EHF Champions League triumph perfect with Saturday night’s 32-31 win in Valcea, securing the Danes a 60-52 aggregate win. You’ve won the EHF Champions League with Viborg HK again, how do you feel?

Jakob Vestergaard: I’m feeling pretty good! It was a tough game here in Bucharest and I am very happy we could win away, too, in front of so many enthusiastic spectators. What made your team triumphant in both final games?

Jakob Vestergaard: In the first match, I believe that we were better at handling the high speed of the game. Furthermore, we were good at neutralising their key players, such as for instance Neagu. We obviously wanted to play the return match at a high speed, too. And I think we succeeded, even though Neagu was a little more dominating than in the first match. I reckon we solved that very well again. As soon as we had liberated ourselves from the pressure at the start, and as soon as we started to move fast in our defence as well as in our attack, we were pretty much in control. We were prepared for the tactical changes that Radu Voina made for the second match, and I think we solved those very well too. Furthermore, Grit Jurack made a marvellous individual performance. Every time she did not score herself she made a brilliant pass to a team-mate who scored. Grit Jurack was the top-scorer in the game. How did you get her into such good shape after giving birth only in February?

Jakob Vestergaard: Actually, it was Grit herself who believed she could do this. She worked really hard to regain her fitness. I didn’t have much to do with this. Looking back at a turbulent season with a number of injuries and pregnancies, and more defeats in the Danish league than usual, have there been moments, where you stopped believing in defending the trophy this year?

Jakob Vestergaard: I have to admit that there were times, when I had my considerations. Last summer I spent a lot of time talking to players, and we have certainly spent some time in the office during the season, discussing how to make things work out. Of course, we knew that Bojana Popovic and Nora Reiche would return for this season, and we also knew that there was a certain chance that Grit Jurack would be ready for the final games this season. Definitely there have been some different challenges this season, compared to previous years. How are the chances to repeat the triumph next year?

Jakob Vestergaard: Next season is still far away. First we have to play finals of the Danish championship, and then we can start looking at next season. Of course, it would be fantastic to win the EHF Champions League for the third time in succession. I have been told that if we do, we will be allowed to keep that trophy, and that trophy would absolutely look great in the trophy-board in Viborg HK. Your team has not been the only one to be triumphant in Europe this season, as there have been Danish teams in the finals of all three major European cup tournaments. Can this dominance be maintained, do you think?

Jakob Vestergaard: I think that three teams in the finals, as we have seen this year, will turn out to be a once in a lifetime experience. I think that the Danish clubs are the ones who have been hit most severely by the financial crisis, and that we will have a hard time competing financially in the near future. All around us we can see foreign clubs reinforcing their teams for the coming season, so I really think that the Danish top clubs are in for some heavy competition in future. Obviously, this will also make winning the EHF Champions League for the third time in a row an even greater triumph for us. It’s your second EHF Champions League title. How do you see your own future as coach, and what are your personal goals?

Jakob Vestergaard: Well, I feel pretty good at Viborg, and I don’t have any ambitions right now to switch clubs. With a few players leaving at the season’s end, I’ll have a big challenge to build a new team for next year. We’ll have many young players joining us, and with Mounah Chebbah, we’ll have a fantastic play-maker next season. Also, I’d like to work on our defensive formation. I very much like what the French men’s national team does with the 5+1 defence, and I’d like to experiment with this system next season. The Lunde twins and two of the wing players say farewell to the club after this season. How do you see the situation and what’ll the future bring for the team?

Jakob Vestergaard: I’m very happy for them, but I think we’ll have a good team next season as well. Johanna Ahlm will be getting more responsibility in our game plan, and we’ll involve Gorica Acimovic more and more in our attacks. She has scored many, many goals at her previous club, Hypo-NÖ, but their defensive and attacking games are much different to ours. We’ll need to come up with a different plan to make her our regular attacker. Some great challenges to come, really.

TEXT: Peter Bruun / Márk Hegedüs